DC widow blog writer stands with her father and children
Things That Suck

I’m Still Alive!

It was Monday morning last week when I started to really worry. I was back at work after a week off and my dad was really sick. “How are you feeling?” I asked.

“I’m still alive!” he texted back.

At least I knew he still had his sense of humor. But my dad was really sick. He claimed he’d just gotten a virus, but he was so lethargic it was worrying me.

Needless to say, I don’t do well with debilitating illness anymore. And neither does anyone in my family. Claire and Austin had been asking me about Grandpa Tom ever since our return from vacation. “Is he okay?” Austin asked one night, and then Claire added, “he doesn’t look good.”

He didn’t. But what could I do? My dad was refusing to go to the doctor. “There’s nothing anyone can do,” he claimed. “I just need time to get better.”

But as we started to investigate the problem, especially Monday night, it became more and more clear that it wasn’t just a virus. By Tuesday morning it had become obvious – my dad had gotten some illness, but he also had probably gotten moderate carbon monoxide poisoning from the gas fireplace that was installed right before I left with the kids on vacation. Or maybe he was suffering from smoke inhalation? We really weren’t sure.

He had been cold on the day we left, probably the result of his oncoming illness, so he turned on the new gas fireplace. Unbeknownst to us, the fireplace installer hadn’t properly opened the flue. And so when my dad sat next to the fireplace all day long, day after day he got sick and sicker. By the following weekend, when I returned home, I immediately discovered that there was some sort of problem with the soot from the chimney, so I turned the fireplace off and totally aired out the house within a few hours of getting home. (Yes, the house was deemed fine by the gas company once my kids and I were in the house, but that didn’t change the exposure my dad had suffered.) Initially, I thought it was just a dirty chimney.

But Tuesday morning we decided it was something much worse. My dad was so exhausted the night before just from getting up to have dinner. I was really worried and Claire started crying. “Could you have died?” she asked my dad.

“Well, maybe,” my dad said, because he never lies. But then he added, “but I didn’t. So it’s fine.”

I went totally crazy that morning, calling the gas company and the fireplace company and every medical professional I knew. I threatened to have my friend who is an EMT come and get my dad. He claimed he was fine but I was worried.

I mean, I cannot lose my dad. I get that he’s old. I get that he will likely die before me.

But not now. He doesn’t get to die now.

I am fully aware that trying to bargain with God just doesn’t work. Or at least it doesn’t work for me. And yet, there I was, praying that my dad wouldn’t have anything bad happen to him.

We need him.

Actually, maybe God/the universe/luck had our backs last week. I mean, he didn’t die! He eventually went to the doctor (mostly because I threatened to call 911 otherwise) and he is almost totally recovered now, both from his illness and from the smoke and carbon monoxide. He will be okay. We have all new carbon monoxide alarms and the fireplace guys fixed the chimney.

But that was scary.

After he was feeling better, we were reflecting on how crazy the week had been. “It’s always something, isn’t it?” my dad said.

“Seriously,” I answered. “I mean, there’s one thing that’s true about our family: there’s never a dull moment.”

“Hell, it wasn’t that bad,” my dad said, “I mean, I didn’t die, did I?”

I guess that’s the bar with us. We survived it – literally – and all I can say is that I’m thanking God that we’re here.

I know, I know – I just said that I don’t really believe in divine intervention. But even if I don’t think I can bargain with God, I still believe there’s something to be said for offering a little bit of thanks when things go well. Because for some reason, everything worked out this time.

Thank God.

Image Credit: Stefanie Harrington Photography.


  • Michelle Klein

    Marjorie, what a scare for you. I know how close you and your kiddos are to your dad. I think all of us who know him want to always protect him. Put him in a bubble and keep him there forever. He is a very precious man. Your whole family is so very blessed to have such a wonderful father.
    A quick little story, when I worked with him at the office for those 15years I became very protective of him. Patients would come to the window and say i’m here to see “Tom” my first intention was to just shut my window. But I would feel out of respect and your dad deserved it that I needed to correct them. I would say you mean “Dr. Clark?” they would say yes. I did go into his office one time to tell him that between 8-5 he was Dr. Clark, before or after that time or on the golf course they could then call him Tom all they wanted. He cracked up and slapped his hand on his knee. He earned to be called Doctor even though he was the most humble man you will ever meet and never cared to be called by first name.
    We loved to hear his laugh we could hear it all the way up front always made our day around the office. Hugs to him and your family!!

    • Marjorie

      Oh, my dad’s laugh is THE BEST. And the leg slapping while he laughs – that’s SO HIM!! Love that you worked with him for so long, and loved it all the time. We love having him here!

  • Sharm Running

    Oh Marjorie! You SO didn’t need this scare or another unthinkable tragedy! You, your children AND your dad need each other! I’m so glad this turned out well. I’m imagining myself, being VERY upset w the fireplace installer, and can hear and feel your complete FEAR. I hope they heard you, too. I’m digressing; sorry! Thank God and the Universe that “Tom” is still here 🙏🏻

    • Marjorie

      Oh, they definitely heard me. I was very pointed when we talked on the phone and they waived a lot of fees for everything. And my dad will be okay. But wow – what stress! So glad it’s passed.